Monday, May 30, 2016

Sneaking in a Dungeon V: My GURPS Rulings

Here is a reach back to a series of posts I did almost three years ago, Sneaking in a Dungeon.

Since I run GURPS, and my players often use magic to augment their sneakiness, here are some rules and rulings. Be careful quoting them outside of my game, however - some of what is below is my interpretation. Check the page references to see what the rules actually say if you choose to use these.

Boots are -0 to Stealth; the rules assume fairly hard-soled footwear and give bonuses for soft gear. Sollerets are -2 to Stealth rolls versus Hearing, since they're assumed to be stiff and armored all around (even the soles have full DR.) Barefoot is a +1, like soft shoes, but remember that Tough Skin doesn't prevent the effects of contact agents, thorns, spikes, and other skin-affecting or skin-penetrating hazards.

Invisibility gives a +9 to Stealth where been seen would matter (per Invisibility, p. B63) This is to say, it's not automatica perfect stealth. By default, assume the Invisibility spell affects up to Heavy encumbrance.

Levitation and Flight do not include Stealth, Silence, or any other form of anti-detection. It will let you ignore any penalties to Stealth for noisy floors, however, and I also allow you to move up to your full levitating Move without incurring a -5 to Stealth for moving above Move 1 (per p. B222) against Hearing; same with gliding (and most magical flight.) However, the -5 will apply against creatures using Vibration Sense (Air) or other similar powers.

No-Smell removes any chance of Smell-based detection entirely; there is no roll. Normally, you don't roll Stealth for smell - for that, actually disguise your smell or move downwind of your foes.

Gesture is a quiet way to communicate, but you need to be in physical contact or able to see each other. If you can't see the person you are gesturing to, you can communicate only one way. You won't necessarily know you communicated (the person glanced away, misunderstood, is waiting for confirmation, can't see you after all, etc.) without reciprocal sight.

Distance Matters. Don't forget that distance from a target is a net bonus, and being close might cause your foe to notice you. (Editing later - to be more clear here - by "net bonus" I mean the sense rolls of any foe might be lowered by range. You will not get a bonus on your Stealth roll itself.)


Roll Once Against Everything. That is, roll once for Stealth against all forms of detection, and apply the penalties individually. Don't roll per sense. For example, Nakar is Invisible and rolls against his Stealth-12 and rolls a 9. A foe would need to win the contest by more than 12 for Vision and more than 3 for Hearing. Monsters hunting by Vibration Sense would need to win by more than 3, those by Detect Life wouldn't be affected by Stealth, and those hunting by smell would just need a normal Smell roll.

So the best way to sneak? Invisible Mage-Stealthed Ethereal Body No Smell, with Remove Aura tossed on so you don't seem to be alive. Still might not work, if a foe has Cosmic senses or See Invisible, but it's worth a try.


  1. Roll Once Against Everything. You roll your Stealth once against everything - but does one opponent roll multiple times, once per sense? Once, vs best sense? Once, then determining individual MOS for each sense like you did on your Stealth roll?

    This becomes rapidly relevant when you have a creature that has, eg, Discriminatory Hearing and Discriminatory Smell - two or more obviously good senses, with good odds of success.

    1. I'd roll once, if both apply at once, against the better of the two. If circumstances change and one sense suddenly becomes relevant, I'd then roll against that. If it's critically important to determine both senses, I'd probably still roll once for both (but I might make two IQ rolls, one for each analysis, if senses give that ability.)

      The idea is to cut down on rolls needed overall, chances of failure because of repeated rolling, and tracking more than one basic number. That's what that ruling is meant to do. It works pretty well - I might roll for hearing when you're talking within earshot, but then roll for vision a minute or two later when you decide to sneak up on the guy.

      This works well in general because:

      - players who roll well on Stealth like that it's a blanket roll.
      - I don't need to reveal how many senses I'm rolling against with lots of dice rolls.
      - Play zips along pretty well when you're doing "choose the best that matters" compared to "let's have a lot of contests."

      That's the goal - less rolling to avoid both sides doing "roll until you fail!" in general circumstances.

  2. I use the Speed/Range table for penalties to Stealth, and roll a QC with the best Perception attribute that applies as a concealed roll. Then the player will know about how well they're sneaking, but not how close they can safely approach before being detected. One roll is key to the suspense.
    I also apply a penalty for metal armor, a -1 per DR. I use edge protection from Low Tech, so this feels like a good balance mechanism to me. You can be safer or sneakier, but both is hard.

    1. Two questions:

      Can you explain how you use the S&S/RT exactly? If you mean roll vs. flat Stealth but Perception takes range penalties and size bonuses, I'm doing the same thing. If you're applying something directly to Stealth, I'm not following the how or why.

      How does Edge Protection factor into this? DR 7 plate would be -7, does it matter if an 8 damage cutting attack gets a multiplier or not? Or are you saying people can generally get away with lower DR because their main concern is armoring up vs. cutting damage?

    2. I typed that incorrectly. Yes, penalties are applied to Perception of the party being sneaked upon, not the sneaker.

      I'm saying that people can generally get away with less DR. For whatever reason, in my campaign, characters skew toward high-damage-low-resistance. Also, I find that chopping through armor violates my suspension of disbelief. That means that DR 7 armor is pretty difficult to cut through, despite high damage output. It also seems to me that metal armor should be clanky, hence the modifier.

    3. That makes sense.

      I've seen too many artistic depictions of people getting chopped up despite armor, seen too many penetrated helms, read too many accounts of limbs cut off, etc. to think armor DR needs boosting vs. cut, personally. The problem is that ST is cheap, people hand out a lot of points, and then people buy high ST to chop through armor. DR 7 plate was like the protective hand of God in Man-to-Man when buying ST 14 was 45 points and you had 100 for a true hero. It seems to me like Chris hit it on the head in his post about giving out lots of points and then doing your best to negate them - just allow for less damage. Armor DR seemed plenty high when 3d damage was an amazing stat for a boss monster, not so much when that's a small investment for a fighter-type.

    4. I made the mistake of permitting any DF3 race for PCs as long as it fit the point budget. The ogre martial artist and half-ogre barbarian messed with everyone's sense of what reasonable damage output should be, so that the swashbuckler's player was trying to weigh whether she needed to buy up more ST or Striking ST after hitting 2d+2 on swing. Meanwhile, the halfling cleric is doing something like 1d-2 and just hiding when fights break out. Lesson learned: no more unlimited race choices.

    5. The thing is with DF, even the unmodified basic templates for combatants are high-damage, high-skill, high-defense characters. The non-combatants are moderate damage, moderate skill, moderate defense characters at best. A Knight has ST 14 and can have a weapon at skill-21 before even spending the optional advantage points or Quirk points; a player who opts to specialize outside of skill and damage and go with the most weapons possible can have Axe/Mace or Broadsword-16 and will do 2d+1 to 2d+3 damage. Most will choose Weapon Master, Striking ST, and ST to boost the higher instead. Swashbucklers have similar skill and damage is low-ish only by Knight standards; 2d is easy to get for them though. It continues for the others - fighters have 2d+3 or more as a rock-bottom minimum, skill 16 is "low starting," and skills in the 20s and damage in 3-4d range is trivial to achieve (and Barbarians start with 3d-1 basic swing).

      I find that people coming from a D&D mindset still think, "A cleric is good front-line fighter, until the fighters outpace him later" and "wizards can throw daggers in combat and kill things" and "thieves are one-shot killers." In DF, though, they're all basically fodder compared to the front-line types. Vryce has ST 20, Striking ST 1, Weapon Master, and Two-Handed Sword-27. I could throw in "Edge Protection" to screw him over, and he'd still cut through DR 10 dwarven plate and inflict his cutting multiplier with his 4d+12 damage. And so he should - I gave him 250 points to start and roughly 4-5 points a session game in and game out for years. It's that kind of game. It's supposed to be, IMO and IME.


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